What can Pakistan learn from Dubai’s One-Day Court initiative?

Dubai’s One-Day Court initiative reduces time required in investigation and prosecution by implementing a verdict in two phases in less than 24 hours for the cases that don’t require hearings by witnesses. What can Pakistan learn from Dubai?

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Dubai’s One-Day Court initiative is delivering swift justice. According to the latest media reports, the number of cases has dropped to 2,621 last year, compared to 6,191 cases in 2019.

Dubai’s Attorney-General Essam Issa Al Humaidan has said that the initiative cut waiting time at Dubai Courts for misdemeanour cases. “The number of cases dropped last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative enhanced procedures and reduced delivery time,” said Al Humaidan.

During March last year, the number of cases dropped before the court stopped looking into cases in April and May. When it resumed work in June, it only heard 43 cases and the number grew to 140 by December 2020. The majority of cases concerned bad checques, which went up by 31 per cent, totaling 1,165 cases. This was followed by 653 cases involving illegal stay in the country and 330 cases of people working on a visit visa.

The One-Day Court initiative was officially rolled out in March 2017 to ensure faster justice for cases like bounced cheques, alcohol-related offences, residency and traffic cases.

The initiative’s target was to reduce time required in investigation and prosecution by implementing a verdict in two phases in less than 24 hours for the cases that don’t require hearings by witnesses.

A pilot project of the One-Day Court was tried in 2015 and 2016 involving the Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs, Al Muraqqabat police station, and the Traffic Department.

During its first two years of operations, it heard 5,384 cases but in 2017 the number rose into 25,047 cases. The numbers dropped to 9,949 cases in 2018.

Pending cases in Pakistan

A large number of cases is pending before the courts in Pakistan. Experts believe that the HCs in all four provinces of the country need to focus on the process of selection and training of judicial officers in order to make sure the provision of speedy justice to everyone. Moreover, the major problem is pressure on the lower courts due to a large number of cases pending before them.

It is important to note that according to the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (L&JCP), a total of 1,873,085 cases were pending disposal in all the superior and subordinate courts of Pakistan as on November 30, 2017. As per the statistics compiled by the L&JCP, the Supreme Court has 38,071 cases pending till November 30, 2017.

All five high courts have a huge number of 293,316 cases, which are yet to be decided. Of them, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has 147,633 pending cases; the Sindh High Court (SHC) has 93,404 undecided cases; the Peshawar High Court (PHC) has a pendency of 29,525 cases; the Baluchistan High Court (BHC) has 6,510 cases awaiting decisions; and the IHC has 16,244 pending cases.

Furthermore, according to the report, the district judiciary session judges, additional session judges, senior civil judges, and civil judges are also faced with an enormous pendency of 1,541,119 cases. Although Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is small in size compared to Sindh, its district judiciary has more than double undecided cases.

Read more: Provision of speedy justice: CJP unimpressed with parliament’s role

The district judiciary of Punjab has 1,187,076 pending cases; the district judiciary of Sindh has 99,820; the district judiciary of KP has 204,209 cases; the district judiciary of Baluchistan has 13,009 cases, and the district judiciary of Islamabad has 37,005 cases awaiting disposal.

Pakistan’s Model court

Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa introduced the idea of model courts to provide speedy and cheap justice. After assuming the charge, the CJP focused on dealing with all the pending cases before the superior and lower courts across the country.

It is pertinent to note here that under the new judicial policy, 116 model courts were established in the country, including two in Islamabad, 36 in Punjab, 27 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 27 in Sindh and 24 in Baluchistan.

Read more: CJP Khosa announces model courts for speedy trials

In 2020, the Lahore High Court (LHC) established model courts to facilitate judicial proceedings in a safe and secure environment especially when Covid-19 cases were increasing rapidly in Punjab. These Model Criminal Trial Court (MCTCs) were set up in accordance with the recommendations from the National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC). The model courts started functioning with the help of the latest cyber technology in which the lawyers would not be required to appear before the court in person but will be submitting their arguments and replies online. The record of all the pending cases is also reported to have been scanned and made available online.

Legal experts opine that Pakistan must learn from Dubai’s experience and institutionalize model courts at structural level in order to ensure speedy justice.


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